Our first day trip was to Chateau de Chenonceau, the Ladies Chateau. This château is considered by many to be the loveliest of all of the chateaus and I’d have to agree. It’s surrounded by formal gardens and wooded grounds and visitors are free to roam freely throughout the rooms of the castle.
Here’s a little history of the place, in case you’re interested. As Eyewitness Travel’s Loire Valley states:
“Chenonceau reflects the combined influence of five women, who brought a feminine touch to this grateful building. First came Catherine Briconnet, wife of the royal chamberlain, who supervised construction of the château. Later, Diane de Poitiers, Henri II’s mistress, created a formal garden and built a bridge over the Cher. After Henri’s death, his widow, Catherine de Medici, reclaimed the château and topped the bridge with a gallery. Chenonceau survived the 1789 Revolution–because of local respect for Louise Dupin, wife of a tax collector–to be restored by Madame Pelouze in the 19th century.”
My highlight to the château was the kitchen. I only have one picture of the pans (I must have been overwhelmed), but the kitchen is made up of two areas, located in two enormous bases forming two piers in the bed of the River Cher. The kitchen equipment, including ovens, pans, knives, bread baking equipment, etc., do a nice job giving the viewer an idea of what a working kitchen would have looked like.
On the day we visited it was freezing, which is really a shame because had it been a nice day out, we would have spent much more time exploring the formal garden, the vegetable and flower garden, and the 16th century farm. There’s also a lovely cafe that served lunch, pastries, coffee and wine. Perhaps next time…
Our second leg of the trip was spent in the Loire Valley, France. Here we had the privilege of staying in a splendid Chateau (Chateau de la Noue) dating back to the 16th century.We stayed in one wing of the Chateau, equipped with all of the necessary creature comforts (including a DVD player, which enabled us to watch seasons 7 and 8 of Curb Your Enthusiasm–the nights got a little long, but we were in good company with Larry David).
The Chateau is located in the quaint village of Villedomer, a perfect jumping off point to many of our day trips throughout the week. The Chateau is blanketed by a beautiful forest of trees, including pine, sequoia, and chestnut. The only sounds to be heard were frogs in the pond and an occasional ‘moo’ of the neighboring farm’s cows. During our stay, we saw two deer, hares, and rabbits, and enjoyed walking along the grounds foraging for mini strawberries.
The owner of the Chateau is warm and friendly, without being intrusive. She welcomed us with a bottle of Vouvray (from Touraine, just east of Tours–my new favorite wine), made a delicious dessert for us one night, and invited us over for hors d’oeuvres and wine on another night.
What I liked most about staying at Chateau de la Noue was the unique experience it provided. Rather than staying in a sterile, perfectly appointed hotel room, we were afforded a more authentic experience–we drove hundreds of miles on small windy roads, shopped in local markets, and made many a pit stop to the abundant patisseries in every town. After exploring Chateaus throughout the week, staying at a place like this gave me an appreciation for the workmanship, upkeep, and history of the Chateaus.